Since suffering his season-ending triceps injury on Nov. 10, Charles Tillman has felt confident he could return to play at a high level for at least two more years. Now he'll spend at least one of them with the Bears, as the team announced Friday they've reached terms on a one-year contract with the player many argue is the best cornerback in franchise history.
According to Adam Caplan, Tillman's deal is for just under $3.5 million. He made $8 million last season.
"Charles is one of the NFL's great players, a true leader on and off the field, and we're happy he will be staying in Chicago," general manager Phil Emery said in a statement. "He remains the best in the game at forcing turnovers and has brought a tough, physical presence to our secondary. Charles also has a special connection to the people and community across Chicago and we're excited for that to continue."
Tillman visited the Tampa bay Buccaneers and former head coach Lovie Smith earlier in the week, but left without a contract. Some believed Ron Rivera and Carolina might make a pitch for his services after losing starting corner Captain Munnerlyn to the Vikings. But Tillman, whose charitable efforts and personal roots have grown deep here in Chicago, apparently didn't get an offer — or consider one — that would pull him away from the organization for which he's played 11 years.
Tillman also battled a knee problem last season before the triceps injury, missing stretches of games early on, but still managed to play at a fairly high level, coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons. If healthy, he'll start opposite Tim Jennings again while the Bears likely draft a cornerback to develop behind him.
He intercepted three passes in 2013, raising his career total to 36, third in Bears history, and two picks behind all-time leader Gary Fencik. He also tops the team's record book in defensive touchdowns (nine), interception return touchdowns (eight) and interception return yards (675). His 42 forced fumbles, courtesy of his famed "Peanut Punch," rank second in the NFL since entering the league in 2003 as the Bears' second-round draft choice.